A diary of Stopcocks Women Plumbers long planned first trip to Kenya; Day 1.
The 12 and a half hour overnight journey went well, but we hardly slept with excitement.
We landed at Nairobi at 7.30am and were met by Peter, our driver and Leo, a friend of seven years, but who we only knew from facebook. To Peter’s surprise, she didn’t need a card with our names, she knew what we looked like.
We set off for Amani Villa – Amani means ‘peace in Swahili – near the airport in Nairobi where we were to spent our first night in Africa. But immediately we left the airport we spotted about 12 giraffes calmly grazing directly across the road! We were so surprised that we didn’t have time to grab a camera.
A brief shower and breakfast then out into Nairobi (Amani Villa supports Kithoka Amani Children’s Home).
First and very important stop, the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. It opens daily for one hour a day 11-12 when the baby elephants are fed.
We arrived at 10.45, so in perfect time.
It’s a mixture of happy/sad. To see elephants this close and get to touch them, is absolutely incredible and an utter joy. But all of them were aged less than 4 years, and some only a couple of months; so tiny.
At this age, elephants are totally dependent on their mothers, feeding on their milk exclusively until two years and relying on it till about four.
They’re orphaned because of a variety of reasons, mostly, the ivory trade, land conflicts between humans and elephants and unknown reasons, simply separated from their mothers and found alone, many seem to fall down wells.
A keeper asked us to be as quiet as possible and throughout, gave us a highly informative commentary.
In all 29 baby elephants came down to visit us in two groups, the first were incredibly young, mostly under one year and all less than two.
The elephants were fed in twos by their keepers. A special mixture to resemble the rich elephant milk they are completely dependent on.
The elephants played in the muddy pool and rolled around together much to our delight.
Some of them approached us and pushed close. Many of the people watching pulled back, but we pushed forward! Click here for video.
One of the very small babies pushed right at Hattie, she was delighted!
It rocked it’s head around, slapping her arm gently with it’s trunk. Hattie was in heaven and covered in red mud.
This group left and another slightly older group of elephants approached. These each got two bottles of milk and were able to hold the bottles themselves in their trunks. Still only the size of a pony, these babies were bolder and more came near to us.
This time a keeper showed me and Leo that they quite like it if you blow up their trunks, up their nostrils like horses do, it’s a way they communicate. So we happily did this, the elephants snorted back at us!
We scratched and fondled their heads and ears as much as we could, feeling especially privileged and grateful.I am still keeping the mud under my nails as a kind of trophy.
Next we wanted to eat something ordinary Kenyan people eat and also visit the lively community living in the Kibera slum, often featured with Davina McCall in tears on Comic Relief. We could see some of the tiny houses from the road, with roofs of corrugated iron; the area is massive, comprising several villages.However, although I’m sure those areas Davina visited exist, what we saw was very different from what is shown in Comic Relief.
Lots and lots of businesses in tiny corrugated iron covered shacks along the side of the road, their enterprising inhabitants living behind them. Yes, in some places it was smelly, but the vitality and creativity of the area was also very apparent.
We felt honoured to be invited to Leo’s mummy’s very small house to eat genuine Kenyan food. Linet greeted us very warmly and we sat in the tiny living area around a table. She told us she was waiting for some more people from her church to arrive. In a space no bigger than 12 x 8 feet she seated and fed: me and Hattie, Peter, our driver, Leo, Leo’s younger brother, two local Pastors and another visiting from Ghana. The food was tasty and plentiful. Thank you Linet! The pastor from Ghana took so many photos, we forgot to, sorry about that.
Finally, for our first day we visited a girls project Binti Pamoja; that Leo had used herself when she was younger and for which she still volunteers sometimes.
They were very busy, preparing for an International Girl’s Day event on Saturday, so we helped them prepare prizes for the essays the girls are writing.
The project reaches several thousand girls throughout Kibera. Started among many by the local university, it is the only one with it’s own premises – because it achieves so much.
The prizes were about 50 plastic buckets containing in each, a toilet roll, a pack of sanitary pads, a pair of nickers, a soap and some moisturiser. With many girls unable to attend school when they are menstruating because they do not have adequate access to sanitary towels, this is indeed a valuable prize!
We are totally impressed with what this project is achieving and when we return to Kenya we’ll make sure to schedule a longer visit.
We were exhausted by now, after almost no sleep in 48 hours, so back to Amani Villa, more good Kenyan food and a good night’s sleep. The trip across the equator, back to the Northern Hemisphere and our destination KACH awaiting us tomorrow.